ISLAMABAD, Oct 11: Ambiguity in national policies, distortion of syllabus, conflict of interests among different institutions and media’s inability to educate the citizens have provided a space to radicalism and militancy in Pakistan.

This was the gist of discussion during a seminar “Creating an environment that counteracts militant ideologies and radicalism in Pakistanat a local hotel on Friday.

The event was organised by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) in collaboration with the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. The three sessions of the seminar were chaired by former director general Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen (retired) Athar Abbas, senior journalist Zahid Hussain and defence analyst Gen (retired) Talat Masood.

The speakers highlighted how the state radicalised society, especially after the 1971 war with India, by distorting the syllabus to further its India-centric agenda. Besides, state institutions promoted different groupings to use them as leverage and further their own agendas.

Political and defence analyst Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi said extremism was state-produced and deep rooted in society.

He said students were never taught about the characteristics of Pakistani society rather the stress was on the Muslim Ummah as a whole.

Due to the lack of clear policies to deal with key issues, the nation remained confused and even the media failed to educate the citizens about the emerging internal and external threats.

Pakistan is perhaps the only country where media organisations gave unnecessary space to outlawed outfits and militant leaders who tactfully exploited the media to promote their own agenda.

On the other hand, successive governments have not been able to formulate a clear policy to deal militancy in the fear of losing public support. The military also lacked political support to counter terrorism.

However, Gen Athar Abbas said for the last five years there had been a marked change in the military-civilian relation and both had become inter-dependent now.

Besides, the military was not the only power wielder anymore as there were now other powerful institutions such as the judiciary, media and the civil society.

He added that the country needed new legislations to cope with the rising issues. The government should also come up with a national security policy to meet the new challenges, he added.

Former inspector general of police (IGP) and interior secretary Tariq Khosa said ‘mulla-military nexus’ produced militancy for proxy wars.

It was a way of dealing with issues in a non-conventional way. Besides, faulty state policies promoted extremism in the country.

He said there was a need for a visionary political decision to fight militancy and remove the sense of fear and insecurity among the citizens.

Dr Rubina Saigol blamed the national syllabus for radicalisation of society and said it mainly focused on the two nation theory leaving no space for other religions.

The contents of the textbooks in some way also promoted rightwing political parties.

Dr Qibla Ayaz, an academician, while speaking on the syllabus of madressahs, said apart from the syllabus there was a need to look into the atmosphere in which students in seminaries lived.

There are no facilities of extracurricular activities in the madressahs. After class timings, students in the seminaries spend most of their time in watching videos of speeches by different clerics on CDs and cellphones about Kashmir, Somalia and Afghanistan and get indoctrinated.

He said the HEC should collaborate with the seminaries to devise extracurricular activities for the students so that they can spend their free time in a constructive manner.

He said during the tenure of the pervious government, there were talks about madressah reforms and bringing the seminaries into the mainstream.

The very terms ‘reforms’ and bringing madressahs into mainstream were offensive for the seminaries, he said.

And the plan could not achieve the results because instead of the ministry of education or the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the issue was taken up by the interior ministry as though it was a security issue.

Maulana Ammar Khan spoke on how to deal with militancy in the context of Muslims’ pride of the past glory, history and rise and fall of nations and civilisations.

There is a need to have a dialogue with the religious quarters in order to develop a mechanism on how to accept the new challenges and get adjusted in the changed world instead of expressing oneself in a violent way, he added.

TV anchor Saleem Safi said mediapersons could not discharge their responsibilities in a professional manner due to cultural, feudal, tribal and security limitations.

In many parts of the country, especially in the conflict zones, journalists faced life threats and cannot report issues independently.

In the run for rating, most of the time the electronic media puts key national issues on the backburner.

In this process, the media is promoting ideas of militancy sometimes without itself knowing the fact.

Besides, there are policy confusions and contradictions in state institutions which created confusion even mediapersons.

Shahzada Zulfiqar, a journalist from Balochistan, said during the last about two years 28 militant groups were banned in the province but 50 per cent of them were still engaged in propagating their agenda through the media.

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